The Full Body Benefits of Walking

Looking for a way to exercise that will benefit your entire body?  Try walking.  Not only can you do it almost anywhere, but it has a positive effect on many aspects of your physical being as well as your emotional and mental state. I was fortunate enough to discover the full body benefits of walking, not once, but twice.

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The physical benefits of walking include:

I am neither a nutritionist, a dietitian nor medical professional. The information in this article has been researched and sourced at the end of the post if required. All medical issues or questions regarding your health or symptoms should always be brought to the attention of a medical professional for clarification, assessment, advice and treatment.

  • Heart health
  • Lung health
  • Joint pain
  • Muscle strength
  • Bone density
  • Weight loss
  • Better Sleep
  • Reduced Risk and Progression of Alzheimer’s and Dementia
  • Stress Reduction

My walking story:

I spent almost 20 years at a desk job trying to fit exercise into a schedule. I know all too well how difficult it can be.  For a while I was meeting up with a friend about three or four times a week to go for a walk.  We would walk about 5 miles each trip.  As a result, I found I had more energy and more patience. I wasn’t as tired and had fewer colds.  I even managed to lose over 45 pounds in a period of about two years. I had changed nothing else in my daily routine. I had not made any changes to my eating habits.  Clearly, there were a number of benefits that were working for me.

Unfortunately, when our schedules changed and we were no longer able to meet, the walking stopped and, along with them, the benefits.  I gained back approximately 20 pounds. Again, I had made no other changes to my eating habits or my daily routine.

I was now in my mid forties and I was beginning to have some issues with neck pain and lower back pain. I found I was tired all of the time.  I also found that I was losing muscle tone in my legs.  I was out of breath walking up stairs. I was even having trouble falling asleep again.  I was still exercising a couple of times a week at the gym but my overall physical health was declining. I saw my doctor, told him of my concerns. He ran some standard tests and basically told me that I was healthy, but getting older and things would change.

The Benefits of Walking as We Age

I wasn’t ready to just accept age as an excuse. I decided to go back to walking regularly. It was a time when I felt my best and I was hoping that I could get back to that point. I did some research and found that there were many other benefits to walking that were specific to aging. Aside from the improved fitness level, it helps to prevent other illnesses associated with aging, include type 2 diabetes, bone deterioration and even Altzheimers.

Studies have shown that walking as little as 5 miles per week slows the progression of Altzheimers and other form of dimentia. By being active, the brain volume was maintained, decreasing the amount of dying brain cells. Maintaining the health of the brain is a key factor in reducing memory loss.

Walking also helps to reduce the risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes. There is a direct correlation between the speed at which we walk and the level of prevention. Walking at an average pace has positive benefits and will help to lower the chance of developing type 2 Diabetes. A faster the pace, will further reduce your chance of developing the condition. This means that any form of waking is beneficial.

As women age, loss of bone density is a serious issue. It can lead to injury and potentially osteoporosis. Regular physical activity including walking and weight bearing activities can help to maintain bone strength. You can combine walking with weight bearing by adding ankle weights or carrying small hand held weights to your daily walk. Ensuring that you get enough calcium and Vitamin D in your diet is also beneficial.

Now that I am Back to Walking Daily

Two tears ago, I quit my desk job and became a dog walker. I have lost 13 pounds without even trying. My legs have decreased in inches and the tone is coming back.  It seems that my general aches and pains are becoming less troublesome. According to my Fitbit, my resting heart rate has dropped from the low eighties to the mid sixties.  This shows a drastic improvement in my cardiovascular health. I have significantly reduced my risk of heart disease and stroke.

The physical activity and fresh air are once again helping to improve my mood and stress levels.  Now I fall asleep as soon as my head hits the pillow.  Climbing stairs or hills is no longer a struggle because my lungs are stronger and can take in more air.  

I have also set some weight loss goals. I have made some modifications to my eating habits and plan to continue walking regularly. I remember how poorly I felt when I stopped walking, and how fast the progress I had made vanished when I stopped walking.

It is important to note that you should incorporate a form of weight or resistance training into your exercise plan, as well as some stretching before and after a walk to prevent muscle tightening.

Here are some ways you could incorporate walking into your daily schedule:

  • Walk to work:  If it is too far, get off of the bus/train a stop early and walk the rest of the way. If you drive, park further away.
  • Grab your grocery cart and walk to the grocery store.
  • On your lunch break, walk to get your lunch or coffee. 
  • Walk with your children. Instead of screen time, go outside and walk.  You will all benefit physically and you will be helping them to develop healthy habits.  You will also be spending quality time.
  • If you have a dog, walk him rather than letting him out in the yard.  Your doggo needs the exercise and stimulation and you will benefit as much as he will.

I have seen the overall benefits of walking, not once, but twice.  It is easy and it’s free!